Hero Tales

Page: 49

Loki often amused himself in his mountain home by taking upon him his favorite form of a salmon and lying listlessly beneath the waters of the great Fanander Cataract, which fell from the shelving rocks a thousand feet above him. One day while thus lying, he bethought himself of former days, when he walked the glad young earth in company with great Odin. And among other things he remembered how he had once borrowed the magic net of Ran, the Ocean-queen, and had caught with it the dwarf Andvari, disguised, as he himself now was, in the form of a slippery salmon.

"I will make me such a net!" he cried. "I will make it strong and good; and I, too, will fish for men."

So he took again his proper shape, and went back to his cheerless home in the ravine. There he gathered flax and wool and long hemp, and spun yarn and strong cords, and wove them into meshes, after the pattern of Queen Ran's magic net; for men had not, at that time, learned how to make or use nets for fishing. And the first fisherman who caught fish in that way is said to have taken-Loki's net as a model.

Odin sat, on the morrow, in his high hall at Asgard, and looked out over all the world, even to the uttermost corners. With his sharp eye he saw what men-folk were everywhere doing. When his gaze rested upon the dark line which marked the mountain land of the Mist Country, he started up in quick surprise, and cried out:

"Who is that who sits by the Fanander Falls, and ties strong cords together?"

But none of those who stood around could tell, for their eyes were not strong enough and clear enough to see so far.

"Bring Heimdal!" then cried Odin.

Now, Heimdal the White dwells among the blue mountains where the rainbow spans the space betwixt heaven and earth. He is the son of Odin, golden-toothed, pure-faced, and clean-hearted; and he ever keeps watch and ward over the mid-world and the homes of frail men-folk, lest the giants shall break in, and destroy and slay. He rides upon a shining steed named Goldtop; and he holds in his hand a horn with which, in the last twilight, he shall summon the world to battle with the sons of Loki. This watchful guardian of the mid-world is as wakeful as the birds. And his hearing is so keen, that no sound on earth escapes him,—not even that of the rippling waves upon the seashore, nor of the quiet sprouting of the grass in the meadows, nor even of the growth of the soft wool on the backs of the sheep. His eyesight, too, is wondrous clear and sharp; for he can see by night as well as by day, and the smallest thing, although a hundred leagues away, cannot be hidden from him.

To Heimdal, then, the heralds hastened, bearing the words which Odin had spoken, and the watchful warder of the mid-world came at once to the call of the All-Father.